From the Outside Looking In: Reality Bites in San Francisco

It always interests me to see how others see San Francisco from the outside looking in. There is always lots of shocked talk about the seemingly progressive nature of the way the city is ruled, when the truth is money spent on policing has been rising steadily over time. Proposals to shift $150 million in funds away from the police and towards tackling racial disparities fell by the wayside. What what starts off as appearing to be bold and progressive intentions, when the reality just reinforces the status quo. This latest round of promises to ‘take back the Tenderloin’ (from whom? Give it back to who?) mark a shift into saying what ya mean and meaning what you say. I would rather know what the deal is, I would rather be able to point at the dangers and therefore protect myself from them. When people tell you who they are….believe them. I believe Mayor Breed when she tells us who she is by increasing funding for policing and not for the SIP hotels which actually save lives. We do want to save lives, don’t we? I mean the City doesn’t just want to punish and drive out the poor and unhoused and criminalize poverty, addiction and homelessness does it, because that sure seems to be how it is right now.

I actually think Boudin, in the balance of things is doing the best he can under huge pressures on either side to either be more lenient, or else far tougher. He can’t please all the San Franciscans all the time, me included. I would like to see the attacks on Asian elders prosecuted more harshly, out of sheer desire to punish such chickenshit cruelty. That is my emotional response. I would hope that cooler heads who can actually do something about it get to the root causes of the issues and build bridges within the community so people are better supported and these crimes don’t happen in the first place. Good job I am not in charge of anything. I would be awful at the job. I do not envy anyone with the power to effect serious change, the pressures and the half measures would be infuriating.

The original 6 million bucks in cuts were swallowed by the lack of need for airport policing during the pandemic, and did not represent any actual serious move to defund. The year the Sherrif’s budget is increasing by 25 million, the DA’s budget by 6 million and now there is the promised crackdown on the Tenderloin.

Increased policing means increased confrontation, and further criminalization of homelessness and poverty.

I am concerned. I am more worried about my son being outside with increased cop presence than I am with him being outside without it. We are not documented, and this move makes me feel under attack within my own community which we now feel part of. I don’t want to feel like our only home in years is now sitting in a part of town singled out for martial law.

The sirens are frequent outside my window, but that is nothing new. The usual small disagreements carry on outside. To be frank the more virulent of them seem to be between people rich enough to own a car which they want to park illegally outside on the road, and their fights for spaces, fights between each other for not leaving enough space to get their cars out, and altercations hitting each others vehicles in a reckless way reserved for those with insurance and savings accounts. Sometimes I wish the metal jigsaw puzzlers, trying to fit a big car in a tiny spot would just shut the fuck up.

Then there is the “Dog Mama”. She owns a tiny puffball with a bad attitude and sharp teeth. It attacks men in particular, attaching into their legs while she screams at them to leave FruFru alone. I have seen her get vaguely scary at times. Every time she walks past she indulges in some high decibel dog parenting. “DROP IT!” “STOP IT!” “NO FRUFRU!” “GOOOOOOD GIIIIRRRL! MAMA LOVES HER BABABABABA!” She is always dressed beautifully, in that rich San Franciscan way that screams that she bought a million dollar place in the TenderNob, and is all about that gentrification and rising property prices. It makes me want to puke. She is a social problem. The city needs to crack down on performance parenting of small dogs and gentrifiers.

I did consider yelling out the window, like the fishwife I am, to demand that her, her gremlin looking insectoid brain pom, and her wierdly wedge shaped hairdo take their double act elsewhere. She doesn’t even live in the building, or outside it. I suppose this is just a good place for her to stop and make sure we all know she has a dog and is Training It in Capital Letters. These housed people are the real neighborhood nuisances. Do I think the cops will deal with the illegal parkers? The Loud Dog Mama? The man next door who leaves his motorcycle on the sidewalk to polish it, bringing it out of his garage, and has loud conversations which involve much ‘finger gunning’, back slapping and manly talk about engines. Dude needs to ‘bro, seriously’ a little quieter, and preferably not blocking the access to my front door.

From the outside looking in, while we were unhoused I felt like everything could be fixed if we could just live in a house. Now we are in a home, thought it didn’t fix everything, my health is better, my mental health is improved, I feel safer, and am better able to cope when things are difficult in other areas. I am still California sober, managing to just cope with a little weed now and again, and no pills, no opiates and no booze. It is a small miracle that I have been out here in SF for over a year and I have not stumbled and ended up getting high. It is not lack of opportunity, though the fact it is all fentanyl out there helps keep me on the straight and narrow: I don’t want to die, and the prospect of a monster fent problem at this point in my life feels like a death sentence.

My sobriety is fragile like a bomb. Light that touch paper of too much pain and suffering and loss and I suspect I will be screwed, but as long as the Boy needs me I am fighting for a future. I wish there was the safety net of a system that prescribed heroin or diamorphine instead of the dreaded methadone or subs. I figure I have a possibility of having a future inside.

Basically I am an asshole too nowadays. I need an inside toilet, a shower, a bed with my soft mattress for my bad back and leg. I need food every day. Living rough I usually got to eat about once every three days. I spent years eating only a couple of times a week out of sheer poverty and inability to provide safe gluten free meals for myself. I am considerably more robust. I eat three times a day, every day. My body is almost used to regular food again. I don’t think I have got it in me to handle the grind of living outside again. There is a certain freedom, a certain level of don’t have to answer to people, don’t have to do anything, don’t have to abide by rules, go my own way, where ever the wind takes me thrill to not living in a house. It is not for me now. I don’t think I would last long if I had to do it again. I spent more of my life homeless then housed securely. I need to retire into some kind of relatively peaceful safe normality. The kind of normal that has always been for other people, not for me. I am tired. Everything hurts. I’ve no medical care and my old injuries hurt every minute of my day.

I am on the inside looking out. I don’t much like what I see, and it is not my unhoused, fellow poor neighbors who are the issue: over policing, criminalization, street vigilantes masquerading as community security which, to be frank, terrify me, and the inhumanity of some of the people in charge who want to make shows of strength, not exhibitions of actual positive change and community compassion. I have no answers. I am not even disappointed. I just feel kinda angry. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Leave a Reply